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Desert Winter Thru-Hike: On the Ground Updates

Desert Winter Thru-Hike: On the Ground Updates

The Desert Winter Thru-Hike (DWTH) is a new(er) route created by Brett Tucker (Blisterfree) that connects the Arizona Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Curious? Me, too!

The route traverses the low desert landscapes of Southern Arizona and Southern California for approximately 800 miles.  Of course, your exact mileage will depend on in route choices you make AND if you connect it to the AZT and the PCT. 

Since we’ve thru-hiked Brett Tucker’s Grand Enchantment Trail (read: route) and his Lowest to Highest Route, he passed along the information for his new Desert Winter Thru-Hike. 

In this 2024 winter, Karma and I will jump onto the Desert Winter Thru-Hike.  Come along for the ride!

This post will be updated frequently in January, February, and March, so bookmark it to see our progress!

Desert Winter Thru-Hike Preparation

Dehydrated Trail Meals
Dehydrated and Vacuum Sealed Trail Meals

We are doing several things to prepare for the Desert Winter Thru-Hike.

1️⃣ First, we read through all the information Brett Tucker sent with the GPS tracks.  He organized everything very well, but it’s a lot to get through.

2️⃣ Second, we added the GPS tracks to Gaia.  Then, we downloaded offline USGS Topo and Gaia Topo maps with routing info so we could navigate in airplane mode on our phones.

3️⃣ Third, we added the paper map set to Avenza.  Honestly, I don’t love the Avenza app, but it works well enough. The Desert Winter Thru-Hike needs these types of maps as well as Gaia.

4️⃣ Fourth, we went to my Mom’s house where she had dehydrated a massive drawer full of delicious plant-based meal ingredients.  For a week, Karma and I took those ingredients, pieced them into two-person meals, and vacuum-sealed them.

5️⃣ Fifth, we ordered high-protein Lenny & Larry’s Cookies and other bars to mail drop or cache for ourselves.  Having lived in our van for two winters in these areas we know that most of these towns don’t have good options for us.

6️⃣ Lastly, we gathered our gear and fixed anything that we needed to repair after the Grand Enchantment Trail.

Resupply: Caching Vs. Mail Drops Vs. Buying as You Go

A food cache in a 5-gallon bucket buried in the desert sand.
Example Food Cache

For the Desert Winter Thru-Hike, we’ve decided to do significant caching.

Since we live in our van when we’re not hiking, caching is a good option for us as plant-based humans. Most of the DWTH towns have very limited selections. If you eat everything, you have more options and may be able to buy as you go with a mail drop here or there.

🚐 Also, we just don’t like a few of the towns having passed through them in our van. We know they exist and how to get to them if we need them. But, we’d rather stay out this time. ⛺️

Finally, figuring out caches ahead of time helps us get the best feel of the route. We look into exactly how many days of food we need in each cache and guess how hungry we’ll be. Then, we get two road trips as bookends for the hike: one to place to caches and one to grab the trash we rebury afterward.

We cached a lot on the Hayduke “Trail,” once on the Wonderland Trail, and once on the Grand Enchantment Trail (because we didn’t like the town nearby).

Desert Winter Thru-Hike DAILY Posts

A backpacking couple burying a food and water cache on the desert winter thru-hike.
Burying a Food and Water Cache

For the first time in years, I’m going to aim to write a short post each day.  Depending on cell service, you might get a few of them at a time. 

I heard that the Desert Winter Thru-Hike might have more cell phone service than other trails. From being in the van, I have a few ideas of where it will exist or where it won’t. 📲

Honestly, I’m not sure how this will go. Please, hold me accountable in the comments or over on Instagram!!! 😊

📍 Basically…BOOKMARK this post and check here for the Daily Updates.

Day 1: Bonus Miles to the Connector Trail

Day 2: Neoair Sleeping Pad vs. The Desert

Day 3: Urban Hiking and Good Birding

Days 4, 5, & 6: Triple Zero for the Double Storm

Day 7: A Full Moon Indeed

Day 8: Saguaro National Park West & Wasson Peak

Day 9: Petroglyphs, Some Cross-Country, & First Blood

Day 10: First Cache and Cactus Foot 

Day 11: 100% Following a Migrant Corridor

Day 12: A Two Skull Day

Day 13: Adventures to Town

Day 14: Agricultural Canals

Day 15: OMFG We Saw 2 Crested Caracaras!

Why We Want to Hike the DWTH

A van life couple packing a food cache for the desert winter thru-hike.
Making Caches from the Van

Karma and I became interested in routes after our first thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail where we went in opposite directions in 2015.

⛰️ The CDT really sparked our interest in the “choose your own adventure” hiking style.  It also felt like a gateway trail to learn off-trail navigation, honed in our longer food carries, taught us how to filter some really nasty cow water, and more.

🌲 In 2016, we did the Pacific Northwest Trail had also had lots of in-route options and we absolutely LOVED the Lionshead Ridge Bushwhack.

🏜️ Then in 2017, we massively honed our off-navigation skills on a Hayduke “Trail” thru-hike in the spring followed by the Lowest to Highest Route in the fall.

While we both love a nice, maintained trail, we also both love the remote feeling of routes – even if parts of them aren’t as pretty. 

🌵 We found we liked Brett Tucker’s route-making style after the L2H and the Grand Enchantment Trail in 2023.

🚐 Finally, we’ve grown to love the low desert traveling around in our van. While some people only see vast emptiness and a lack of colors, we see more.

So…we figured…why not the Desert Winter Thru-Hike? 🤷‍♀️

Two Final Thoughts

Overall, we’re really excited to jump on the Desert Winter Thru-Hike in 2024. 🥳

  1. This is a little different style of post than I’ve been doing and would love your feedback.  Comments at the bottom of the post or on Instagram really make my day. Let me know what you’re enjoying, what you’d like more of, or what is just not doing it for you.
  2. It’s hard to step away from the amazing nomad community and store the van. However, we’re super stoked to go hike 800 miles.  Sometimes you’ve got to leave the comfort behind to go on the best adventure.

Hotrod and Peaches

Monday 22nd of January 2024

Looking forward to following this trek. Happy trails from both of us 🤩

mandyredpath

Monday 22nd of January 2024

Hiiiiiiiiii 👋 Hotrod and Peaches! Thank you and happy trails to you as well!

Wazi

Monday 15th of January 2024

Hi Veggie! I love to see the post. I hope Karma puts together the spliced video post-trail. Those videos are absolutely amazing. Happy Trails!

mandyredpath

Tuesday 16th of January 2024

Hi Wazi!! Thank you! We'll see if he wants to do that after trail or not. We'll definitely be posting a lot on instagram...you know you want to get it 😉

Bryn

Wednesday 10th of January 2024

Great info!! Love seeing how you’ve cached your food and supplies along your route! Hope you do the daily posts, they were awesome for the beet harvest 😜

mandyredpath

Thursday 11th of January 2024

Thanks, Bryn! I'm going to try my best...I think the lack of daylight will help with writing a bit each night 🤞

Sarah

Thursday 4th of January 2024

Ahh! I am so excited to follow this journey. The page is bookmarked and ready for following along. Your writing is so nice to follow and it feels like we're having a friendly chat which is really nice.

mandyredpath

Thursday 4th of January 2024

Yay! Thanks, Sarah! Please help me stay accountable to the daily posts 😊 🙌

Marty

Thursday 4th of January 2024

Veggie & Karma, I'm a full-time RV'er retiree driving the Beast that pulls my home, Foxy. I'm an aspiring sectional hiker of all trails, wintering in Quartzite and Yuma, AZ, and I look forward to following your trek. Stay healthy, safe, and enjoy the hike.

mandyredpath

Thursday 4th of January 2024

Hi Marty! Thanks for reading along! Foxy is a great name for an RV. I honestly think section hiking can sometimes be harder than thru-hiking with the extra logistics of getting to the start and ends of sections...my hat is off to you! Have fun this winter in Quartzite and Yuma. I love those Arizona sunsets 🌅